“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never truly live if you are forever looking for the meaning of life.”
Today, as I was walking to a coffee shop in downtown Austin, a school bus stopped in front of me and a little kid waved at me frantically through the bus window. I laughed and waved back. There was instantly a look of surprise and then extreme happiness on the kid’s face just because I waved back to him. This reminded me of how, as children, we need very little to make us happy.
As adults we somehow grow into the belief that we need everything to be a certain way in order to find and appreciate moments of happiness. But the truth is, to be happy we need much less than we think we need. In fact, I believe one of the best feelings comes when you realize that you can be perfectly OK and happy without the things you once thought you needed. And that’s precisely what this short article is about – the things you do NOT need to be happy:
1. Ideal circumstances.
The happiest people do not live with a certain set of circumstances, but rather with a certain set of attitudes. Choosing to be positive and grateful for what you have now is going to determine how you’re going to live the rest of your life. So look for something positive about today. Even if you have to look a little harder than usual, it still exists.
Ultimately, your greatest achievements are moments in time when what you’re doing allows you to see how wonderful your life already is.
2. Everyone’s approval.
The biggest prison you will likely ever live in is your fear of what other people think.
You cannot let other people tell you who you are or what you want. You have to decide that for yourself. When you’re making big decisions, remember, what you think of yourself and your life is more important than what people think of you. Don’t let others make you feel guilty for living your life. It’s YOUR life. As long as you’re not hurting anyone else, live it YOUR way.
Fulfillment and success in life lie in your ability to use your entire mind to achieve your goals, dreams and desires. Take sufficient time to spend with yourself, without external interference. You’re worth it. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Self-Love” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
3. A perfect past.
Do not let the shadows of your past darken the doorstep of your present and future. Let go, forgive and move forward. Just because the past didn’t turn out like you had hoped, doesn’t mean your future can’t be better than you had envisioned. In fact, we often grow stronger in the places we were once broken. Because it’s not until you’re broken for a while that you truly learn what you’re made of on the inside. And this insight gives you the ability to rebuild yourself, stronger than ever before.
Most of the time the only difference between long-term happiness and long-term despair is not quitting on yourself. As long as you are breathing it’s never too late. Today is a new beginning.
4. Full control of life’s constant changes.
Life is constantly changing and we’re changing with it. We’re not the same person we were a year ago, a month ago, or a week ago. Life’s cycle doesn’t stop. Change is what it’s all about. But every ending is the beginning of something else. Every exit is an entry somewhere else. Live, learn, and let go. Don’t hold yourself down with the changes you can’t control.
Although some forces are out of your control, you can control how you react to things. Everyone’s life has positive and negative aspects – whether you’re happy or not depends greatly on which aspects you focus on. The best thing you can do is to let go of what you can’t control, and invest your energy in the things you can. Live simply, love generously, speak truthfully, breathe deeply, do your best, and leave the rest to the powers above you. (Read The Road Less Traveled.)
5. A carefree, stress-free life.
Great challenges make life interesting; overcoming them makes life meaningful. Don’t wait until everything is just right; it will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. So what! Get started now! With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more skilled, more confident, and more successful.
Say it: “I am determined to live a happy life no matter my challenges! I will turn all my tales of fury into tales of glory! I will turn all of my tales of woe into tales of WOW!” And no matter what happens, just do your best and appreciate what you’re learning. You won’t enjoy your life if you don’t enjoy your challenges.
6. All the things you don’t have.
You are right here, right now, with what you have, breathing. Enjoy it. You’ve got nothing to do today except to smile.
Happiness is valuing what you have, and enjoying the people, places, objects and events in your life for what they are. It’s not about changing and achieving all the time; sometimes it’s about being and appreciating. And you can nearly always enjoy the things you have and the events happening around you if you make up your mind firmly that you will.
7. A mountain of money.
If we counted our blessings more often, instead of our money, we would be a lot richer. Keep money on your mind but out of your heart. Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life for yourself. Cultivate your spiritual growth. The real measure of your wealth is how much you’d be worth if you lost all your money.
- Happiness formula = Do your best and appreciate what you have.
- Unhappiness formula = Compare yourself to others and the things they have.
It’s nice to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s also important to make sure you haven’t lost track of the things that money can’t buy. You don’t need a lot of money to lead a rich life. Good friends and a loving family are worth their weight in gold. It really is the little things that mean the most… like a long hug at just the right time. (Read The Happiness Project.)
8. Any event happening in another time and place.
Make your time count. Do not wish your moments away. Do not ruin today by focusing on another time and place. There is only now; realize how rich you are in it.
Right now you are creating history – your legacy. Don’t let life slip by without being aware of it. Life works in a strange way: You want something and you work and wait and work and wait, and you feel like it’s taking forever to come. Then it happens and it’s over and all you want to do is relive all the great memories you made along the way.
Happiness is the journey. Open your eyes. Don’t miss it.
9. Constant happiness.
The bottom line is that you can’t be happy unless you’re unhappy sometimes. Life is not always perfect, and the utopian world of constant happiness in not natural, nor should you expect it.
In the short-term, your mood will fluctuate, but it is your ability to realize and deal with these fluctuations that allows you to maintain long-term happiness. Any fool can be happy when times are good. It takes a strong soul with real heart to develop smiles out of situations that make most people weep. But it is possible.
Live every day of your life in full. Experience the highs and the lows, the positives and the negatives, and all the moods present between the various extremes. Don’t focus on simply being happy. Focus on living a well-rounded, seasoned life. Focus on achieving completeness. Yes, happiness is part of this completeness, but so is sadness, difficulty, frustration, and failure. And overcoming these latter points supports your personal growth far more than constant happiness.
Choose happiness today by taking life moment by moment, complaining very little, and being thankful for the little things that mean a lot.
What would you add to the list? What do we sometimes forget we do NOT need to be happy? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
Photo by: Dustin McClure
Wow! This hit right on the target of everything a friend and I were talking about earlier today. I absolutely agree and love everything about what this article talks about. I’m always moved by all the articles I read on this site but this one in particular has got to be my all time favorite. Thank you so much for the wise wisdom that you both share! Every time I read an article of yours, I instantly feel more grounded and just put back into reality of what’s truly important in life :))) thank you so much!!
I have been happily living with not needing everyone’s approval for some time now but some people will just not let you live. I am currently having a problem with someone I work with who thinks she needs to save me from my singleness. I am a grown up and am very aware of my life and my situation and am happy that I’m making progress in life and I feel confident. This woman will not stop pushing me to date her friend and i have no interest in her friend. She says I need someone and that I shouldn’t be single. I have told her numerous times “thank you for thinking of me but I’m good, things are good for me, I’m fine”. She insists that I need to find someone and that my life is not OK. I don’t know what to say to this woman anymore as she has become almost harassing in the way that she can’t stop focusing on my life. She hardly knows me anyway and is making some huge issue out of me being single and apparently to her I’m not capable of living my life. I don’t know what this kind of behavior is about.
It’s very sad that someone would push and push on someone to live life the way they think you should live. I’ve been very patient and respectful to her so far when trying to make her see my life and choices don’t need her help or approval but she just wont back off. This is not respectful behavior and I’m feeling pretty insulted that she can’t see I’m perfectly capable and it’s not her business. It’s almost like she wants to control me, it’s very weird. There are some people in the world who don’t like others to live their life when it doesn’t fit into some box either them or society has created. I will not let these people influence me because they can’t see correctly, I have to say it’s frustrating though. Sorry for the long comment.
I never thought about life like this; living with the ups, downs, frustrations, and the joy of life. Embracing this thought will require I accept my life for all that it is, the good and the bad. I wonder is it possible? Thank you.
This is so spot on. True and long lasting happiness stem from appreciating people, situations and moments in our lives for what they really are not what we want/expect them to be.
Number 8 really caught my attention and I absolutely relate. I had just completed my degree a year ago, it felt like it was taking forever. I was too busy focusing on the end goal that I forgotten to LIVE in the moment, appreciate the present, be in touch with the present. Now that I got my degree I wish I could relive the moments I taken for granted. My goal as from now on, is to LIVE the present. and celebrate the little achievements which make the bigger picture.